The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

January 11, 2013

The Standard National Corpus

The following was written for Scott Kildall's "Imagine 2049" project,
at . Scott wrote "Do you want to submit an
invention for the future? Taking online submissions for the next few days
only. All of this goes in a time capsule." I was delighted to take part.

The Standard National Corpus

Around 1962 I was at Hebrew University in Jerusalem; the Hebrew language
was undergoing rapid change as it was continually updated to adapt to
contemporary life. I remember in particular, when I arrived, the word for
'airplane' was 'aviron'; it was later formally changed to 'matos' which
stemmed from Hebrew, not European roots. Today either word is acceptable
according to Segal/Dagut's English-Hebrew Dictionary. The basic concept
behind these changes was to create a purified language with as little
linguistic borrowing as possible. Later, I noticed the same thing in
Montreal, in the debate over the Quebecois language - whether or not to
eliminate anglicisms, whether the anglicisms were inherent to Quebecois,
and so forth (see 'joual' in Wikipedia for exampe). These debates have
occurred all over the world as nationalisms put up barriers in order to
create theoretically-pure lexicons reflecting theoretically-pure national
groups. I propose a formal software program for linguistic purification.
It would examine the current state of a language, as well as its history
for at least several centuries. This can be accomplished by collating
acceptable vocabularies. From this, it should be possible to weed out
words of 'foreign' origin, especially if they're of recent appearance. The
definitions of these words could be then be used to create alternative
words based on the language's 'native' roots and resources.

Once all of this is done, of course, it will be announced to the local
population who will surely adopt the substitutions; everyone is happiest
with purity! Furthermore, the updating can be continuous; in this way,
eternal vigilance is the guarantor of the strength and depth of native
stock. No GMOs (genetically modified organisms) here!

Finally, of course, this idea of automated purification can be applied to
any number of different areas - don't worry, we'll stay away from eugenics
but we will include animal breeding! - ensuring that any nation's natural
culture and inclinations (as well as borders and tariffs) will continue

- Alan Sondheim

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